All across India and neighbouring countries, national parks and wildlife reserves have been set up, to protect the last habitats of royal bengal tiger and other rare species. However, they are not only sanctuaries for wildlife, but also popular tourist attractions. Often the question crops up, whether tourism benefits conservation in those areas or hinders it.
To answer this question, one must not only look at the tigers and what benefits them most – but also the circumstances and how their protection is realistically achievable. India is a country in which many people have to live on very little, and rely on the use of the natural resources around them to survive.
When national parks are created, many people are cut off from their resources, as it is not allowed to use plants or timber or hunt for food in those areas. So to ensure the park rules are respected by locals – or better: can be respected by them without losing their livelihoods – there has to be a compensation for them; the protected land has to get a monetary value that is higher or equal to the value of the resources on the land for locals.
Law alone cannot protect national parks from poachers and woodcutters, but being involved in tourism, the locals are also actively involved in the protection of the site, and stakeholders in conservation.
Tourism puts a very high value on the land, much higher than agriculture or hunting. It creates job opportunities for skilled and unskilled people. Many tourists visiting those reserves are wealthy, and ready to pay a high price to see some of the last animals of a species.
Tourism can be harmful – if it is cheap mass tourism, exploiting the animals, and doesn’t leave much money in the region. Sustainable high end tourism, however, can raise enough money to improve livelihoods around the parks and pay for the conservation of the site.
Tiger censuses have shown that the tiger population in India is increasing, and also that National Parks have a particularly high density of tigers. It does not seem like the tigers are suffering from the numbers of tourists visiting the parks, quite the contrary: population densities in National Parks are much higher than in unprotected areas.
If you want to go on a tiger safari that will be a fantastic experience for you and benefit locals at the same time, contact us.